Zambia removes ridiculed statue of iconic leader

A statue honouring Zambia’s first President, Kenneth Kaunda, has been removed after weeks of ridicule.

Residents of Kabwe town in Central Province disapproved of the workmanship, with most saying the statue looks nothing like Kaunda.

Earlier this month the authorities wrapped up the statue in protective sheet after it was targeted by vandals.

Many Zambians have been comparing the Kabwe statue to another one of Kaunda unveiled in the capital Lusaka in December, which some have described as “stately” and “respectable”.

Dr Andrew Mulenga, a historian and academic head at Zambia’s Open Window University for the creative arts, says he has an idea why the Kabwe sculpture drew condemnation in comparison to the one in Lusaka.

“Drawing from my experience on covering the visual arts, the Zambian audience prefers ‘naturalistic’ or ‘hyper realistic’ artworks. In other words, it prefers an artwork that bears an almost photographic resemblance to its subject. This is why genres such as abstract art don’t sit very well,” he said.

“From what I observed on social media, the Kabwe statue… was continuously made fun of as being a caricature owing to its somewhat quirky anatomical features and ‘poor’ craftsmanship.”

The authorities in Kabwe finally removed the statue on Wednesday morning, but it’s unclear if it will be displayed elsewhere or if another one will be commissioned.

Kaunda died two years ago aged 97 – he was the last of the generation of African leaders who fought against colonial rule.


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